It’s a holiday weekend to enjoy the unofficial start of summer and also to reflect on the sacrifices that our great servicemen and women have made throughout the years. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a city with a baseball team, of any level, try to make it a point to go out and catch a game if that team is at home this weekend. The weather is improving around the country and it’s a great night out with friends or family.

Even if it’s a Double-A game you can’t bet on, there are a lot of prop bets you can enjoy, like $1 per inning for guessing what the second batter of the inning does or a $1 per inning for the plate ump throwing the ball to the mound and having it stop on top. Get four friends and pull numbers zero through nine for the final digit of the runs + hits + errors.

Anyway, now that those degenerate ideas are out in the open, let’s look back at what was a tough day with yesterday’s short card. The #Barves really #barved it up by losing as a -130 favorite. The Blue Jays and Astros were winners to make up for the loss on the St. Louis/Washington over. It was a day in which we drank some juice. The grind continues.

Our focus, as it always is, will be on the games that provide a lot of line value and those that give us the opportunity to dig deep and find the wagering angles and betting tips that will produce winners.

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Per usual, the games with big lines will be overlooked, unless there is something particularly noteworthy about them or a play on the underdog is a possibility. Also, day games are usually skipped due to the lead time of the article. That will not be the case on Thursdays or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.

 

New York (AL) at Tampa Bay (-110); Total: 7

Tanaka vs. Archer sounds like an FX spin-off, but that’s actually the pitching matchup at the Trop tonight. Tanaka has had much better fortunes this season than Archer, who has constantly fought with his command. It appears from his declining K rate that Tanaka is pitching to more contact, but his swinging strike rate is actually up this season. Most of those swings and misses have actually been in the zone, which is always an interesting development. Tanaka seems comfortable and healthy this season. He’s throwing more strikes and his velocity is pretty good across the board. There’s a lot to like about him and also his ability to turn leads over to this elite pen.

On the Archer side, positive regression is coming, but we just don’t know when. The swing-and-miss stuff is still there with 65 K in 52.1 innings, but the control isn’t there and the command has been terrible. Archer has allowed 10 HR in 52.1 innings. He gave up 19 HR in 212 IP last season and 12 in 194.2 innings in 2014. For a bit, the increased use of a changeup was working, but now that pitch rates below average.

Archer isn’t getting enough tilt on his slider and he’s actually issued more walks with the fastball than he has strikeouts. There are a lot of really concerning trends here and I don’t think it’s coincidental that he’s struggling after working career highs in innings each of the last two seasons. He’s not an overly big guy and you don’t really see a workhorse frame. His velocity is down a bit, his control is done, we know his command is down. I’m not suggesting injury, but something’s not right.

The worry about going against Archer is that a pitcher with raw, elite stuff like his can figure it out in the blink of an eye. See Scherzer, Max with his 20-strikeout game. With Tanaka and the Yankees bullpen on the other side, I’m more confident in taking the road team here, but I’d definitely approach with some caution.

 

Baltimore at Cleveland (-125); Total: 9

This is an enormous homestand for Cleveland. They take on the Orioles, Rangers, and Royals with a chance to climb into first place. The regression we expected from the White Sox has arrived. The Tigers still can’t pitch. The Royals, who have run exceptionally well for three seasons, are now fighting it, with injuries to Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas. Everything is coming up Indians right now.

Mike Wright takes on Trevor Bauer in this one. Wright is a replacement-level starter, so we’ll focus more on Bauer. Bauer is such an enigmatic pitcher. He’s made five starts this season and the results have been all over the place. He didn’t strike out a single Red Sox hitter last time out, but he minimized damage the best he could. He’s really had to battle his way though innings, which is kind of concerning, but the stuff is really special.

I’m really not sure what to make of this matchup tonight. The Orioles are one of the more aggressive lineups out there and Bauer had great success against a similar Houston lineup three starts ago. The Orioles also punish mistakes and have the fourth-best SLG against RHP. The Indians bullpen has also had some issues.

My lean here is to the over. A warm, humid night is on tap in Cleveland and the park plays a lot differently in the summer months. We’re not in a summer month yet, but the weather is close. Both pitchers have some blow-up potential. Bauer has some upside here, so a minor lean to the Indians, but the over would be the preferred play.

 

Los Angeles (NL) at New York (NL) (-130); Total: 7

The Major League debut of Julio Urias is both a cause for celebration and a reminder of how old you are. What were you doing on August 12, 1996? Julio Urias was visiting the world for the first time. The uber-prospect left-hander has 308 career strikeouts in 263.1 innings in the minor leagues. He started at 16 in A- and posted a 2.48 ERA with 67 K in 54.1 innings of work. He actually reached Triple-A as an 18-year-old last season. The average age in Triple-A is 27.

What can we expect from Urias? He’ll probably overthrow in the early innings and sit 94-95, which could tire him out in the middle innings. He can command all three of his pitches and has a plus curve with changeup that flashes plus. His mechanics can be a little bit inconsistent, but he has the raw stuff to get by against minor league hitters. Will MLB hitters have more success? This is a good lineup for Urias to debut against because the Mets are decidedly better against righties. They are 21st in wOBA against LHP.

Let’s not forget the guy going up against Urias, Jacob deGrom. JDG hasn’t had the strikeout stuff yet this season, but he’s inducing a lot of weak contact and everything looks in line with his usual averages, except that strikeout rate. deGrom has a 3.07/3.38/3.96 pitcher slash, but I don’t see any reason to worry about the elevated xFIP. His velocity is still down, which is problematic, and probably a cause for the strikeout rate being down. But, his swinging strike rate isn’t down a whole lot and he’s pounding the zone.

I feel like deGrom has the chance to on a big run here soon. Perhaps it starts today. I don’t love this matchup for the Mets lineup, but a five-and-fly from Urias seems plausible and that would give the Mets an advantage.

 

San Francisco at Colorado (-120); Total: 10.5

We’ve got a very interesting spot here in Colorado today. The Rockies ended a long road trip with a win last night over the Boston Red Sox. They flew out late and got home late, so this could be a little bit of a sluggish spot for Colorado. On the other side, there may not be a team hotter than the Giants in any sport right now. They’ve won 13 of their last 14 and had Thursday off following an extra-inning affair on Wednesday to grab a quick breather.

While I don’t like Matt Cain and think Tyler Chatwood has some value, the Giants are certainly in a better spot here today. Cain has a 5.37/4.49/4.55 pitcher slash, but his extreme fly ball tendencies are a bigger worry at Coors Field than any statistic I can throw out. In two starts against Colorado this season, Cain has allowed 14 runs on 16 hits in 8.2 innings of work. While two starts isn’t a predictive sample whatsoever, it’s not a big surprise to see numbers like this.

Cain has thrown three straight quality starts, so maybe he’s figuring it out, but I’m skeptical for right now.

Tyler Chatwood shows some signs of regression with an 81.2 percent strand rate. His HR/FB% is right around league average, so his 3.99 xFIP and 3.02 ERA do mean something here. He’s been really good on the road and really average at home. I’m not sure that this is a great spot for Chatwood. I like him overall, because I think ground ball guys can survive at Coors, but the Giants are on another level right now. If Cain can throw any kind of decent game, they should be able to win. That’s easier said than done, but you wouldn’t catch the Giants at this price with any pitcher other than Cain. Is there inherent value in that? You could make that argument.

I’d lean San Francisco today. No thoughts on the total, but the Giants have a spot advantage, hence the lean.

 

Detroit (-125) at Oakland; Total: 8

Michael Fulmer and Sean Manaea have shown enough in their starts to create optimism, even if their traditional numbers don’t look all that exciting. We’ll start with Fulmer, whose biggest issue has been fastball command. His four-seam fastball is already eight runs below average on the season. He has 33 strikeouts in 26.1 innings, but he’s given up 33 hits and five home runs. There’s a lot of hard contact mixed in with a lot of strikeouts.

In a park like O.co Coliseum, his home run issues can be hidden a little bit. Does that give him value tonight against Sean Manaea? It very well could. Manaea has had plenty of issues with righties, allowing a .337/.389/.556 slash so far in 90 PA. The Tigers are predominantly right-handed, so that’s not ideal. He has held batters to a .231/.303/.352 slash at O.co Coliseum in 100 plate appearances, so, that’s some reason for hope.

This is a tough game to pick. The price on the Tigers is a little bit steep, but Fulmer should have a matchup advantage over Manaea. I’m going to stay away, but I want to see how these kids keep progressing because there could be future opportunities.

 

Houston (-115) at Los Angeles (AL); Total: 8

Mike Fiers takes on Matt Shoemaker here in this battle of AL West foes. Initially, I thought this would be a pretty good place for Fiers to pitch because he has some home run issues. Maybe it will be, but his home run problems are actually more noticeable away from Minute Maid Park since last season’s trade. He’s also given up just three home runs in his last five starts. He’s actually been a lot more effective than his 4.35 ERA and 4.38 FIP would suggest, though his strikeout rate is down and that’s worrisome.

It’s always frustrating when you think you have a good handle on a pitcher and it turns out that you don’t. That’s how I feel with Fiers. He’s inducing more ground balls this season, which has driven up his HR/FB%. An increase in cutters and changeups has led to more balls on the ground, which is a good development for him. The Astros are a solid defensive team, so the decrease in strikeouts hasn’t hurt as much as it normally would. I’ll have to monitor him a lot more closely now.

Matt Shoemaker couldn’t get anybody out in his first seven starts and then he struck out 12 Orioles and allowed just three hits his last time out. This is why betting baseball is so damn hard. There’s so much variance and so many unexpected occurrences. Shoemaker had 22 strikeouts in 29.2 innings prior to that start. The weird thing is, he pitched that well and didn’t even get the win. I could go into a diatribe about pitcher wins here, but I’m not going to.

Regardless, that was probably Shoemaker’s Frank the Tank during the debate moment. I’d be stunned if that was anything more than an out-of-body experience. Obviously oddsmakers agree with the line here. Houston would be a lean, but not a strong play.